Last month, we told you how the Episcopal Church finally voted to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages — shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
However, the church also agreed to a compromise under which individual clergy members may refuse to perform same-sex marriages without penalty, and bishops can prohibit them in their dioceses. (The Washington Post has a detailed explanation of the changes here.)
Earlier this month, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas announced it will continue to prohibit same-sex marriages in its congregations after the church’s new laws take effect Nov. 1:
“We acknowledge that there are many in the Episcopal Church and in the wider culture who have longed to see marriage redefined to include gay and lesbian people who desire lasting, legal commitments with their partners. The developments of this week represent for them, and for many who love them, a validation of the full and equal place of homosexual persons in society and the Church. …
“But is marriage primarily about equal rights, equal dignity, or even the simple desire to love and be loved? The Book of Common Prayer, Holy Scripture, and the tradition of the Church teaches that marriage is about something else, and for this reason the majority of Christians in our world (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglicans) believe marriage is beyond the redefinition of any human agency.
“If marriage has been established by God in creation, as most of the world’s Anglicans believe, then no Church council or civil court can ever redefine marriage. …
“The Diocese of Dallas desires and intends to live out these words by respecting the Communion’s teaching on marriage3 and by upholding the Book of Common Prayer and the authority of God’s Word. We are grateful for the General Convention’s appropriate acknowledgement that trial rites will not be used in a diocese without the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.”
Later, the Bishop-elect of the Dallas Diocese, George Sumner (above), commended the Standing Committee for its letter, calling it “a gift to the whole church”:
“The last few weeks have been dramatic and tumultuous, and leave us with a sense of uncertainty. …
“We want to articulate the traditional teaching on marriage. Here I commend to you the thoughtful letter from our Standing Committee. We do well to think of this witness as actually a gift to the whole church.”
Under the church’s new laws, if a bishop chooses not to allow same-sex marriages in their diocese, he must refer gay couples to another diocese that permits them. But clergy members in dioceses where same-sex marriages are banned may not perform them. They would be liable for punishment for disobeying the bishop.
The Rev. Stephen Waller (right), the openly gay former rector of the LGBT-affirming Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle in Dallas, told me he believes most other dioceses in Texas, as well as one in Western Lousiana, will permit same-sex marriages.
“So, Dallas is surrounded with Dioceses that are making possible what the General Convention approved,” Waller said.